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The Land of Laughs | [Jonathan Carroll]

The Land of Laughs

Thomas Abbey is a man stuck in a rut. To kick-start his life, he takes a sabbatical to work on a biography of his favorite writer, the mysterious Marshall France. Although Abbey has been warned that France's daughter, Anna, has blocked all previous attempts at her father's biography, he is surprised to find her the soul of small-town hospitality and quite excited about Abbey's proposal. Even stranger than Anna's behavior, though, is the town itself. The people seem to know what their future holds - freak accidents and all - down to the hour.
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Publisher's Summary

Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.

A few words from Neil on The Land of Laughs: "I chose The Land of Laughs for Neil Gaiman Presents because I love Jonathan Carroll’s books and want to bring them to as wide an audience as possible. I suspected the character of Thomas Abbey would be both a challenge and an opportunity for the right narrator. Edoardo Ballerini conveys a certain wistfulness and vulnerability underneath Abbey’s grumpiness."

Thomas Abbey is a man stuck in a rut. An English teacher in a small Connecticut prep school, Abbey is in a crisis. His career is unfulfilling, he has no social or love life to speak of, and he cannot break out of the shadow of his famous father, the actor Stephen Abbey. To kick-start his life, he takes a sabbatical to work on a biography of his favorite writer, Marshall France. France's books were the only thing that kept Abbey sane during his childhood, and though he was renowned for his lyrical and imaginative children's books, nearly nothing was known about the writer's life.

Although Abbey has been warned that France's daughter, Anna, has blocked all previous attempts at her father's biography, he and Saxony Garder - an intense woman also obsessed with France's life - head to Galen, Missouri, with high hopes of breaking down Anna's resistance. They are surprised to find Anna the soul of small-town hospitality and quite excited about Abbey's proposal - even eager to get the project finished as soon as possible.

Even stranger than Anna's behavior is the town of Galen itself. On the surface, all is as a small Midwestern town should be. But the people of the town seem to know what their future holds - freak accidents and all - down to the hour and are as eager for Abbey to finish the biography as Anna is.

To hear more from Neil Gaiman on The Land of Laughs, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.

Learn more about Neil Gaiman Presents and Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX).

©1980 Jonathan Carroll (P)2011 Richard Parks

What the Critics Say

"Edoardo Ballerini perfectly captures the hesitant and faltering Thomas Abbey, a schoolteacher who wants to write the biography of his favorite children’s author, the mysterious Marshall France. Thomas’s story starts out realistically enough, but when he and his girlfriend take a research trip to France’s hometown in Missouri, things begin to veer into the bizarre. Ballerini makes the listener sympathize with Thomas, even as he begins an affair with France’s daughter, Anna, a woman obsessed with her dead father. Ballerini’s command of Thomas’s character and his spot-on voices for the secondary characters ground the story as it becomes more fantastical and the listener learns that either things aren’t what they seem or Thomas is not entirely sane. An unsettling examination of obsession." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (317 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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3.7 (285 )
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Story
4.2 (289 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
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2 star
 (5)
1 star
 (6)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Karen W 07-02-14
    Karen W 07-02-14 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    6
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Not at all what I expected"
    What did you like best about The Land of Laughs? What did you like least?

    The first 1/2 to 3/4 of the story was great. But then it turned strange with no apparent reason for it or build up. So far fetched. I was lost and confused


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie 06-22-14
    Bonnie 06-22-14 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
    31
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    8
    8
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    Story
    "Still Saying "Huh?" After a Week"
    Where does The Land of Laughs rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    In the lower half of my list.


    If you’ve listened to books by Jonathan Carroll before, how does this one compare?

    I haven't listened to others by Jonathan Carrol. Probably won't now.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    None.


    If you could take any character from The Land of Laughs out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Saxony. She seemed interesting, but not fleshed out. I'm a researcher (as she was) and I'd be fascinated to know how she found out some of her facts. (That point is never addressed.)

    Many people on here have said that they would like to take Thomas (the main character) out to dinner. But I found him very self-serving. I don't think I would have enjoyed the dinner at all. He probably would have angered me and in a juvenile way to get back at him, I probably would have spent the whole dinner talking about his father and what a great actor he was. (That won't make sense to anyone who hasn't read the book.)


    Any additional comments?

    I bought this book in error. I ran across a review of author Neil Gaiman and wanted to read some of his work. I ran his name through Audible and found a couple, including this one. Once I purchased it, I found that it wasn't written by him but only on his suggested list.

    I finished this book over a week ago and I'm still shaking my head. Various points pop up into memory and start me off again. I argue with myself over whether I should return the book for a refund or if I liked it.

    If you ask me if I'm sorry that I read it, I would have to say no. (Unlike "Albert Nobbs" where I not only wanted my money back for the cost, but also wanted the hours of my life back that it took to finish it.) If you asked if I would purchase it again, knowing what I know now, I would have to say no.

    At least the narrator was very good.

    The reviews are divided on this book, so it seems you will have to judge for yourself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marge SACRAMENTO, CA, United States 04-08-13
    Marge SACRAMENTO, CA, United States 04-08-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "If Charlie Kaufman had written Alice in Wonderland"
    Where does The Land of Laughs rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I loved it, but I think it requires a particular 'type' of person to enjoy it.

    English majors and well-read 'eccentrics' will enjoy.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    They're all terrible. Which is why I enjoyed it. I suppose Saxony is almost likable. Really, a good 'horrible' character is my favorite type.


    What does Edoardo Ballerini bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The perfect privileged, pretentious, professorial speaking style. Seriously, he takes a somewhat loathsome character and makes him smugly pitch perfect. Applause!


    If you could take any character from The Land of Laughs out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Nails the dog. You'd have to read the book to find out.


    Any additional comments?

    As always, if you like to loathe your characters, you'll like this. Thomas is so delightfully, unwittingly narcissistic and inconsiderate, and it is fun to see what is going on in his head.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caleb Jamestown, RI, United States 03-12-13
    Caleb Jamestown, RI, United States 03-12-13
    ratings
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    12
    1
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    Story
    "Great premise, great performance, BUT..."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I would delete the last few paragraphs. It doesn't spoil any of the ending for me to say that the final scene of the book was more or less unnecessary, and the twist therein left more more frustrated and annoyed than pleased. The story ended with a triumphant finish, then there was an epilogue, and then the epilogue got its own finish that didn't really work for me.

    More importantly, I would speed up the pace of the first part of the book. By a lot. A real lot. I feel like this would have been an absolutely amazing short story, but was only a so-so novel. I stuck it out because I wanted to see what Neil Gaiman so admired about it, and I started listening in the first place because the premise sounded so cool. Someone starts writing a biography of his childhood hero, and things start getting weird. Great. I'm sold. A whole town full of people who know their own futures? Awesome. Bring on showing me the psychological implications of that, both for them and for an outsider coming in. BUUUUUT, see the next part of this review for the reason for my three stars.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The premise was wonderful. Unfortunately, the book is divided into three parts, and the premise *does not even appear until part three*. The first few pages were very misleading. The protagonist collects creepy masks and meets a mysterious woman who shares one of his obscure interests and hand-carves creepy marionettes? Yes please. Tell me more. Instead, for the next five of eight total hours, I got to listen to them doing some preliminary research, finding a few contradictory details, moving to a sleepy Midwest town, and finding out some more mundane things. I spent most of those five hours wondering when the interesting part would come, and re-checking the description of the book to make sure I hadn't accidentally gotten the wrong one. Sure, it was "good writing" and I appreciate that, and the voice actor did a great job, but about 2/3 of the story was utterly uninteresting to me. What I was expecting to be the bulk of the book was actually an extended conclusion... It was a very good conclusion, sure, but the excessive build-up left a sour taste in my mouth.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Depends on what the trailers played up. If they billed it as an obsessed biographer losing his grip on reality in the midst of a love triangle, not a chance. Pass. If they billed it as a biographer accidentally discovering a town full of impossible things, perhaps. But I doubt I'd feel like I got my $14 worth.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Delilah Boston, MA 02-25-13
    Delilah Boston, MA 02-25-13 Member Since 2012

    Dissonant Muse

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Resonant, Haunting, Unusual"

    What I love most about this book is that you've simply no idea what genre it is for the majority of the narrative. Halfway through and deeply invested in the tale you wonder... Will this be a fantasy story or are we simply along for the ride in our own world, relating so intimately with a protagonist who deeply loves a children's book author about whom little is known? The story is very well-presented and the characters are fantastic, I wanted more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tewkesbee Washington state 09-26-12
    Tewkesbee Washington state 09-26-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Marvelous story"
    What did you love best about The Land of Laughs?

    I found the story to be entertaining and engaging. The narrator was perfect for the story and I was sorry to have it end...
    Thanks to Neil Gaiman for bringing this title to us - I will definitely check our more "Neil Gaiman Presents" selections...


    What other book might you compare The Land of Laughs to and why?

    It was a bit like a grown up fairy tale story...


    What does Edoardo Ballerini bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Mr. Ballerini did a masterful job - really brought the story to life.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    anders 08-27-12
    anders 08-27-12 Member Since 2012
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    1
    1
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    Story
    "A Magical journey to the land just outside reality"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Land of Laughs to be better than the print version?

    I have not read the book, but I really enjoyed the intro by Neil Gayman and I loved the way the Narrator read the text.


    What other book might you compare The Land of Laughs to and why?

    I have not read something quite like this story and that was what really made my Day!


    Which character – as performed by Edoardo Ballerini – was your favorite?

    Anna was my favorite.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Do You Dare to enter this book, Do You dare not to...?


    Any additional comments?

    No

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CCCii SF Bay Area, USA 12-29-11
    CCCii SF Bay Area, USA 12-29-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great reader, pretty good story"

    I think the reader made this story better than it really is. He's just really good, without trying to do weird voices or anything. The story itself is rather quirky, but I'm glad I listened to it. Not great, but good.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lawrence United States 07-23-12
    Lawrence United States 07-23-12 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
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    1
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    0
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    "Interesting:"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    It has some language that put me off of the story. I used to get ebooks and edit them by replacing offensive words or phrases with something else.

    It is unfortunate that publishers/ producers do not accomadate consumers who are sensitive to language.

    I found the plot interesting--but did not finish the story due to language.


    1 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joie California 06-11-12
    Joie California 06-11-12 Member Since 2007

    Jo

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wierdly Thought Provoking"

    This is one of those circular plots that make me think that the title should be "Twisted". Good for a philosophical discussion on reality and imagination.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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